Astrud in Copenhagen

Astrud, a junior majoring in biology and minoring international studies, is participating in SMU-in-Copenhagen during Fall 2008.

We’ve only just begun …

Wow. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote.

I’ve now officially met most of my professors. I must admit it’s a bit unusual to call them by their fist names but as the saying goes, “In Rome, do what the Romans do,” and I’ll do what the Danes do.

Likewise, I’ve been to my program orientation. For the next four months, I am enrolled in DIS’ Medical Practice and Policy Program. I particularly think that it’s such an advantage to study medicine in a country with a different healthcare program and policy than the United States. A different perspective on things never really hurt anyone. On the other hand, it can probably help more than hurt. But that’s my opinion on that.

My Danish family
So much happened this weekend. This past Friday, I met my visiting family. Since I’m staying in a Kollegium, I chose to take part in the Visiting Family program so that I can get immersed more into the Danish culture. And after Friday, I’m really happy that I did! My visiting parents are amazing!

The dad used to be a pediatrician but now works for another agency, while the mom used to be a pharmacist and just recently retired. To describe them merely as that is insufficient. While they were working, they both biked to work, much like a third of the Danish working population. But their workplaces are an hour bike ride from home! And this is not leisurely biking either. It’s like Olympic-trial biking in my eyes, so the fact that they bike 2 hours a day to get to and from work is really impressive in my eyes.

What I learned about Danes is that most of their meals are prepared at home. They don’t really eat out as much. Even for lunch, most of them choose to bring their own food to their respective jobs. So when they asked me if I was free for dinner, I jumped right in and said yes. It was really nice to sit down with them as they talked about their travels to the United States and all of Europe. We had salad, potatoes and a meat dish whose name eludes me at the moment but rest assured that it was amazing. To finish it off, my visiting mother baked an apple pie with fresh apples from her backyard. I was definitely in heaven.

I know that it won’t be our last meeting. We already planned to go to Rodskilde to see a Viking Museum. We’ll just have to plan dates now.

Denmark by bike
My Saturday was just as eventful since I got to experience the Danish way of transportation – the bike – for myself. DIS sponsors various tours and activities throughout the semester, and one of them was a Bike Tour. I was apprehensive at first, of course. Biking is no joke here. But why not try, right? So, I did and I definitely felt the aches and pains when I woke up this morning. But nonetheless, it was still very worth it.

Seeing the city on a bike is so much different than walking it or taking the bus. There’s a different perspective that one gains when they pedal their way through traffic and as they enter and exit the bike lanes. We got to practice our bike signs and also got to see various places in Copenhagen. Once in awhile, we’d stop and our tour guide would tell us more about the history of Copenhagen and explain to us the importance of the particular building that we were seeing. I think I consider the amazing weekend weather to be a plus as well.

n18813039_33508860_6525.jpgCastle tour
Sunday featured another trip, but this time, it was away from the Copenhagen area. This one was to Helsingor, a place north of Copenhagen. The focus of the trip was to see Kronborg Castle, also dubbed as Hamlet’s castle. You see, Dallas doesn’t really have that many castles, so going to see one was particularly appealing to me.

Once again, our group had a very knowledgeable and amazing tour guide who talked to us about the different rulers of Denmark. I thought it was particularly funny that a lot of the artifacts were either stolen by Sweden at one point in time or are actually in Sweden right now. Oh, those Swedes. The tour was a great start of the great weekends to come!

Posted in Astrud in Copenhagen | Comments Off on We’ve only just begun …

The oldest monarchy is now home for me

n18813039_33508838_3289.jpgThe idea that I am in Copenhagen, Denmark, hasn’t really hit me yet, though that fact is hard to miss. No, really, it is.

Yesterday morning, I was pretty sure that a pedestrian saved my life from a man I thought was training to be the next Lance Armstrong. However, judging from his blue tie and the fact that he was sipping coffee with one hand and biking with the other, I soon realized that this man was, in fact, not just a man – he was a real Dane. Their ability to multitask while pedaling a bicycle to me is amazing. I’m sure that one of these days I will see someone crocheting a scarf as they pedal on. When that happens, I’ll make sure to take a photo and then blog about it. Back to Copenhagen.

Dorm life – sort of
I love my Kollegium – DIK! What exactly is it? Well, it’s similar to dorm living except that you don’t really have RAs and there are no choices for meal plans either. There are two kitchens in my block, and I share a mini fridge with another Kollegium resident. I’ve realized that they really do stress more of an independent style of living here in Copenhagen. We’ll see how strong my theory is later on in the semester.

But as for now, I am enjoying the joys of having my own restroom and efficient public transportation! The trains here are amazing. Danes are known for their punctuality, and if anything, you see that with the trains. I’m sure this applies to every form of public transportation but I can only speak for the trains at the moment.

Yesterday, we got a chance to see some sites of the city – The Little Mermaid, Parliament, The Queen’s Residence, etc after a tremendous opening ceremony at the Black Diamond. I know that I’m probably spitting some random jargon right now, but I can’t help it. It’s the adventurer in me.

n18813039_33504913_1424.jpgEverything here is exquisite, in my opinion. The history and culture in this place are enchanting considering the context of its history. I won’t bore you with that but know that if you ever come to visit, you’ll probably get what I mean. The language has its own natural charm as well. Today was the first part of our Survival Danish course. I can say a few things now like “My name is___,” “How are you?,” “I’m from Dallas,” “Thank you” and a few other phrases. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pick up some more in my stay here. And yes, the language is not Dutch. It’s Danish. Please inform your friends.

Ready or not …
I still think it’s insane that not only was I on a different continent three days ago, but that I’ll be spending close to four months here. It’s exciting yet at the same time a bit daunting. Trying to find your place in an unfamiliar setting is never really 100 percent easy. I still remember my first day in Kindergarten. But then, finding your place was a bit easier. If you could run around and share your food with another person, it was a done deal that you two could be nap buddies. Here, it’s a tad bit trickier.

But when I think about this tiny hurdle, I realize that I came here not only to study (which is obviously still a priority) but also to gain experience that I cannot find by reading a textbook. I applied for this program and chose to live away from home to test myself and see how far I can push considering that I am out of my comfort zone. I didn’t come here because it was familiar. I came here because of all the opportunities of growth that I can gain.

So, Copenhagen, here I am! I hope that you’re ready!

Posted in Astrud in Copenhagen | Tagged , | Comments Off on The oldest monarchy is now home for me